Life: Its True Genesis
by R. W. Wright
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6
Home - Random Browse

In an area in the Milky-way not exceeding one-tenth of the moon's disc, Mr. Herschel computes the number of stars at not less than twenty thousand, with clusters of nebulae lying still beyond. As we know that no bodies shining by reflected light could be visible at such enormous distances, we are left to conclude that each of these twinkling points is a sun, dispensing light and heat to probably as many planets as hold their courses about the central orb in our own system. From the superior magnitude of many of the stars, as compared with the sun, we may reasonably infer that many of these vast sun-systems occupy a much larger field in space than our own. This would give an area in space of not less than six thousand millions of miles as the field occupied by each of these sun-systems. And as the distance between each of these systems and its nearest neighbor is probably not less than that of our sun from the nearest star, we have the enormous and inconceivable distance of not less than nineteen billions of miles separating each one of these twenty thousand stars or sun-systems, occupying a space in the heavens apparently no bigger than a man's hand. And yet Infinity, as we apprehend the term, lies beyond this vast cluster of constellated worlds! Where is Mr. Darwin's little whirligig in the comparison, or Mr. Emerson's vegetal stomach, or Mr. Herbert Spencer's "potential factors," to express the sum-total of all this totality,—this gigantic assemblage of stars clustered about a single point in the Milky-way? The human mind absolutely reels—staggers bewildered and amazed—under the load of conceptions imposed by these few twinkling stars, and is ready to exclaim,—

"Oh, star-eyed Science, hast thou wandered there, To waft us back a message of despair?"

But when we reflect that all this vast aggregation of sun systems, visible in the telescopic field, is not stationary, but is revolving with inconceivable rapidity about some unknown and infinitely remote centre of the universe, how immeasurably vast does the conception become, and how unutterably puerile and fatuous the thought of Mr. Darwin's little whirligig as the author of it all! No wonder the inspired Psalmist exclaims; "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork." But listen to the Darwinian exclamation: "The heavens declare the glory of my little whirligig, and the firmament showeth the immensity of my little ovules." With the veil of faith and inspiration lifted, the words of the Psalmist swell into the highest cherubic anthem, while those of Mr. Darwin hardly rise above the squeak of a mole burrowing beneath the glebe!

And what presumptuous mortal shall say that this infinitely remote centre of the universe, around which revolves this infinite number of sun-systems, is not the seat and throne of the Infinite One himself—the Sovereign Intelligence and Power of the universe, directing and upholding all? We know that some of the stars are travelling about this central point of the heavens at a pace exceeding 194,000 miles an hour, or with nearly three times the rapidity of our earth in its orbit. That there must be infinite power, not physical, at this unknown centre of the universe, to hold these myriads of sun-systems in their courses, is a logical induction as irrefragable as that the sun holds his planets in their orbits. And if infinite power is predicable upon this central point, why not infinite intelligence also? Intelligence, we know, controls and utilizes all power in this world; why not all power in the universe? It can utilize every drop of water that thunders down Niagara to-day, as it has already seized upon the lightnings of heaven to make them our post-boy. This is what finite intelligence—that insignificant factor that science would eliminate from the universe—can do; then what may not Infinite Intelligence accomplish?

But the Darwinian systematizers object that science must limit itself to a coordination of the known relations of things in the universe, or deal only with phenomenal facts, not dogmatisms; forgetting that they dogmatize quite as extensively, in constructing their chain of generation, as the theologians do in adhering to the Bible genesis. No theologian objects to a rational synthesis of phenomena, limited to sensible experience; but, in climbing from law to law, he reasonably enough insists, that, when concrete facts rise into abstract conceptions, the highest round in the ladder shall not be knocked out for the accommodation of Robert G. Ingersoll or any other boasted descendant of a gorilla. And he also insists that when a priori speculation is lost in abstract conceptions, the highest must necessarily press alone upon the intuitions of consciousness, where all generalizations cease, and all synthesis is undeniably at an end. Here, in this mysterious chamber of the soul, we stand silent and alone, with only dim and shadowy phantoms about us, as if in the august presence of Deity itself.

But how does scientific speculation propose to stifle these intuitions of consciousness—reduce them to the least of all potential factors in the universe? We will take the very latest of these speculations. In supplementing both the Darwinian theory and the grander speculation of Laplace, the scientists, so called, tell us that the process of aggregation, or the turning out of new worlds in the universe, is still going on; but that the time is coming when all the primeval potency or energy, originally inhering in diffused matter, will have exhausted itself in actual energy, and that then all light, life and motion in the universe, will cease and be at an end. This dissipation of potential energy is to result, they say, in a played-out universe, as it has already resulted, they claim, in a played-out moon, if not countless other heavenly bodies.[38] All the exterior planets, or a majority of them at least, are to be placed in this category of dismantled worlds, or those in which all life has hopelessly ceased and become extinct. All has utterly disappeared, or, to paraphrase one of Pope's couplets,

"Beast, bird, fish, insect—what no eye can scan, Nor glass can reach—from zoophyte to man."

All these dismantled planets, and satellites to planets, are only so many immense cinders—mere refuse slag—of no conceivable interest to science, except to predicate the ultimate conclusion—"a played-out universe, resulting from a played-out potency within the universe." The magnificent clockwork of the heavens will then have run down, with no Darwinian whirligig to wind it up again, and the terrible reality of Byron's dream, which it would seem was not all a dream, be realized in the bright sun extinguished, the stars darkling the eternal space, rayless and pathless, and the icy earth swung blind and blackening in the moonless air.

Oh, if this be star-eyed science, give us anything in place of it! Blear-eyed bigotry in his cloistered den, mumbling unintelligible prayers, and believing that man is to be saved, not by what he does, but by a credo only, is far preferable to it. But oh, how unspeakably preferable the simple faith of the star-led Magi, who

"Deeming the light that in the east was seen An earnest and a prophecy of rest To weary wanderers, such as they had been,"

came on that bleak December night, 1880 years ago, to pay their homage to the Christ-child—the long expected Messiah—the Redeemer of the world!


[1]: It may be proper, however, to state that the tenth and concluding chapter was originally written as a lecture, and delivered about a year ago in New Haven, Boston, and at other points. A request for its publication has induced the author to place it in this volume, with the portion referring to the Bible genesis omitted. It will be found germane to the general subject.

[2]: "Without this latent presence of the 'I am,' all modes of existence in the external world flit before us as colored shadows, with no greater depth, root, or fixure, than the image of a rock hath in the gliding stream, or the rainbow on the fast-sailing rain storm."—Coleridge's "Comments on Essays."

[3]: And science that is not purely inductive—i.e. primarily based on the inviolability of our intuitions—is no science at all, but the sheerest possible speculation.

[4]: This presence of an active living principle in nature, one originally assigned as the "divina particula aurA " of every living thing, is frequently referred to in the higher inspirational moods of our poets. Wordsworth exquisitely refers to it in the following lines of his "Excursion:"

"To every form of being is assigned An active principle: howe'er removed From sense and observation, it subsists In all things, in all nature, in the stars Of azure heaven, the unenduring clouds; In flower and tree, in every pebbly stone That paves the brooks."

[5]: The existence of vital units is conceded by some of the staunchest materialists, such as Herbert Spencer, Professor Bastian and others. Professor Bastian says: "The countless myriads of living units which have been evolved in different ages of the world's history, must, in each period, have given rise to innumerable multitudes of what have been called 'trees of life.'" He insists, however, that they have been "evolved" from something, or by some unknown process. But we shall show further on that a "unit" can neither be evolved nor involved, and that this is as true of vital units as of the mathematical or chemical unit. Neither evolution nor involution will ever effect the value of a unit.

[6]: According to Aristotle, the great world-ordainer is the constant world-sustainer.

[7]: The definition which Professor Robinson, in his Lexicon of the New Testament, gives of the word IfIEuroI-II1/4I+-, as connected with the "divine life," entirely harmonizes with this view of the subject. He says: Trop. I John 3, 9, IEuroa1/4fI, a1/2 I cubedI muI cubedI muI1/2I.I1/4I-I1/2I?I, a1/4I I"I?I... I'I muI?I... IfIEuroI-II1/4I+- a1/4EuroI...I"I?I1/2 (I'I mua1/2"I1/2) I muI1/2 a3/4I1/2I"a? IEuroI muI1/2I mua1/2 i.e. the germ or principle of divine life through which he is begotten of god, I"I? IEuroI1/2I mua1/2'I1/4I+-.

[8]: Professor Schmidt, of the University of Strasburg, who insists that species are only relatively stable, admits that they remain persistent as long as they exist under the same external conditions. Time is, therefore, not a factor in the mutation of species. Nor are environing conditions factors, except as a failure of conditions results in the disappearance of species, as the presence of conditions results in their appearance.

[9]: Says M. Ch. Bonnet, in his "La PalingA(C)uA(C)sie Philosophique;" "Il est de la plus parfaite A(C)vidence que la matiere est susceptible d'une infinitA(C) de mouvemens divers, et de modifications diverses," and this is the universal claim of the materialists.

[10]: Professor Burdach (as trad, par Jourdan), in speaking of the productive power of nature, says, "LimitA(C)e quant Ai l' A(C)tendue de ses manifestations, elle continue toujottrs d' agir pour la conservation de ce qui a A(C)tA(C) crA(C)A(C), et, quoiqu' elle ne maintenue les formes organiques supA(C)rieures que par la seule propagation, il ne rA(C)pugne point au bon sens de penser qu' aujourd' hui encore elle a la puissance de produire les formes infA(C)rieures avec des elA(C)ments hA(C)tA(C)rogA(C)nes, comme elle a crA(C)A(C) originairement tout ce qui possA(C)de l' organisation." This shows that its author believed in the possibility of the "superior organic forms," like the mastodon, megatherium, etc. from the "heterogenetic elements"—those undergoing every conceivable change—as well as the "inferior forms." At all events, it is a legitimate induction from materialistic premises.

[11]: This point is conclusively made by Professor Burdach, who says (we quote from Jourdan); "La tendance interieure Ai la configuration existe avant sa manifestation." And by his tendance interieure he must mean some vital or other law, equivalent to an entia in matter, which results in, not from manifestation.

[12]: Goethe borrowed his idea of an archetypal world from Plato and the Eleatic school. They held that the world was originated, and not eternal; that it was framed by the Creator after a perfect archetype, one eternally existing in the divine mind, if not an actual soul-world of which our own is but the reflex.

[13]: In a note to Prof. Bastian's "Beginnings of Life" (vol II. p. 537) an important fact is mentioned as obtained from the writings of Dr. Schneider, to wit, that Nematoids (microscopical forms) may be "obtained at will," almost as readily as mushrooms, by a process entirely independent of spores. For instance, small pieces of beef were carefully examined to see if they contained any of the ova of Nematoids, and, finding none, they were buried in a small quantity of earth (also carefully examined for the presence of Nematoids or their ova) in a gallipot. "After three weeks," says Prof. B. "this earth was found to be absolutely swarming with two kinds of Nematoids—quite different from any forms which I had previously, seen, although I had been seeking them for more than two years previously in all sorts of situations." The reason why he had not found them previously, was because the "necessary conditions" for their appearance had not been obtained by him, or he had not sought for them in their proper environment. They were not produced "at will," but were the natural outgrowth of conditions, as much so as the spores of fungi, which make their appearance whenever and wherever the necessary environing conditions exist. According to Dr. Gros, it takes about three weeks for these Nematoid forms to develop into a reproductive state.

[14]: The necessity of turning plants and animals into "tramps" is just as great in the case of "Evolution" as in that of "specific creation in pairs." In both cases, we must insist upon geneological consanguinity. For the chances of any two highly specialized forms, originally starting on different lines of divergence, and ultimately reaching individual identity, both in form and characteristics, is an impossible problem in the determination of chances. Consequently, Mr. Darwin finds the necessity of accounting for the presence of northern forms in the southern hemisphere, and the reverse, just as great as in the LinnA an theory, which was fully accepted by Cuvier.

[15]: Burdach, in his "TraitA(C) Physiologie" (Trad. par Jourdan. 1837) says: "Effectivement nous rencontrons des traces de vie dans toute existence quelconque." This is as broad a panspermic statement as can be made, and is only true of inorganic matter so far as vegetable life is concerned, including such infusorial, mycologic, and cryptogamic forms as may lie so near to the "force vegetative" of Needham as to be indistinguishable from it.

[16]: In the case of volcanic islands, the upheavals were undoubtedly accompanied by deposits of mud, sand (ocean detritus), marine vegetation, and more or less animal matter, and these organic substances were washed down by the rains into the broken valleys and plains below, when land vegetation almost immediately made its appearance; not because seeds may have drifted thither by any of the different agencies that have been mentioned, but because organic matter can no more help bringing forth life in some form, when conditions favor, than salt water, when exposed to evaporation, can help crystallizing into its symmetrically-arranged salts. And the same would be true of all the coral islands, bringing up the organic matter of the sea to the influence of the light, the rains, and the dews. The islands thus formed in the Pacific Ocean begin to exhibit vegetable life almost as soon as they make their appearance above the reefs, and a line of sea-beach is formed about them.

[17]: These, while presenting the most varied and diverse forms of infusorial life, are nevertheless the most constant and abundant type. They abound more or less in all organic infusions. Ehrenberg, however, holds that they are no more animal than vegetal forms. They vary in length from 1/15000 to 1/2000 of an inch, and are consequently too minute to be satisfactorily classified in respect to all their diversified characteristics.

[18]: The extent of the southern ice-cap may at least be approximately reached from explorations already made. Capt. Weddell, in 1823, extended his explorations southward to within about 15A deg. of the south pole, where he found an open sea. Capt. Ross, in 1842, approached to within about 13A deg. of the same pole, without serious obstruction. It is true that, in the following year, he encountered ice barriers near the line of the antarctic circle, but they were floating barriers coming down from Weddell's open sea. Capt. Wilkes, in 1840, explored a considerable portion of the Antarctic Continent, lying almost entirely within the antarctic circle. Other explorations have been made, showing that the southern ice-cap does not probably extend, continuously at least, much farther north than 78A deg. or 80A deg., or to within some ten or twelve degrees of the south pole, independently of the packs of drifting ice in the otherwise open seas.

[19]: The truth or falsity of "Evolution" depends entirely on the successful solution of this problem, for the chances are quintillions to ones that no two identical forms could have originated from different centres, or from the same centre on divergent lines, and ever reached identically the same results. And how any two forms should happen to be sexually paired, on the same or different lines of divergence, is one of those inexplicable mysteries which must puzzle Herbert Spencer in all his labyrinthian searches into "Force-correlation," "Differentiation," "the Dynamic Force of Molecules," etc., etc. However successful he may be in other directions, he will inevitably fail in this. We must fall back on the grand Old Bible genesis for the solution of this difficulty, where every living thing was commanded to produce seed, or multiply and replenish the waters and the earth with offspring.

[20]: These transcendental or ideal forms may be said to correspond to the "spiritual essences" of Plato. They are the eternal, immutable principles which are discernible to the eye of the soul, as the sensible objects they represent are discernible to the eye of the body. Modern metaphysics may deem them mere abstractions, but a higher realistic philosophy will treat them as substantive forms, of which the objective reality is but the shadow.

[21]: Herbert Spencer may be quoted as authority on this point. He says: "There is invariably, and necessarily, a conformity between the vital functions of any organism, and the conditions in which it is placed ... We find that every animal is limited to a certain range of climate; every plant to certain zones of latitude and elevation." And the same law holds good as to the marine fauna and flora, each specific form being confined to its own sea-depth, or distance north or south from the thermal equator.

[22]: Speaking of the ultimate principles or elements of matter, Plato is quoted by Humboldt as exclaiming with modest diffidence, "God alone, and those whom he loves among men, know what they are." It is only those who seek to eliminate God from the universe that speak with confident flippancy on the subject of molecular machinery and force-correlations.

[23]: As long as the evolutionists cannot agree among themselves as to what constitutes the process of evolution, it can hardly be expected that the public will accept their speculations as conclusive inductions. Professor Bastian, who strongly commits himself to the doctrine, thinks the word "evolution" arbitrary and open to many objections, while Mr. Herbert Spencer says;—"The antithetical word Involution would much more truly express the nature of the process."

[24]: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?" 1 Cor. 3. xvi.

[25]: Dr. Drysdale, in his work on the "Protoplasmic Theory of Life," says: "Matter cannot change its state of motion or rest without the influence of some force from without. True spontaneity of movement is, therefore, just as impossible to it as to what we call dead matter.... So we are compelled to admit the existence of an exciting cause in the form of some force from without to give the initial impulse in all vital actions." In all life-manifestations, this "force from without," must be a pre-existing vital principle operating to effect the otherwise impossible change in matter.

[26]: A favorite set-phrase of Professor Bastian in speaking of morphological cells or "units," as he sometimes calls them.

[27]: That great and justly celebrated naturalist, Buffon, in speaking of the universal origination of the lower forms of animal life by a process termed, in his time, "spontaneous generation," says: "There are, perhaps, as many living things, both animal and vegetable, which are produced by the fortuitous aggregations of 'molA(C)cules organiques,' as there are others which reproduce themselves by a constant succession of generations." It is said that Buffon was for some time associated with the AbbA(C) Needham in his experiments in vital directions, and was much influenced by them. So that it is by no means certain that he did not accept the AbbA(C)'s "force vA(C)gA(C)tative" in place of his more materialistic views respecting "molA(C)cules organiques." At all events, his statement that as many living things appear in nature independently of reproducing causes as by successive generation, is no doubt true.

[28]: M. TrA(C)viranus, who followed Spallanzani and M. Bonnet in these flask experimentations, first noticed the important fact that the animalculA appearing in different organic infusions, depended on the nature and quality of the infusions themselves, and that the changed conditions of the same infusion produced new and independent forms of life.

[29]: Leibnitz, as quoted by M. Bonnet, says:—"Que l'Entendement Divin A(C)toit la religion A(C)ternelle des Essences; parce que tout ce qui existe existoit comme de toute A(C)ternitA(C) comme possible ou en idA(C)e dans l'entendement de Dieu. J'exprimerai cette vA(C)ritA(C) sublime en d'autres termes: le plan entier d'univers existoit de toute EternitA(C) dans l'entendement du SuprAme Architecte. Tou tes les parties de l'univers et jusqu' an moindre atome A(C)toient deffinA(C)s dans ce plan. Tous les changemens qui devoient survenir aux diffA(C)rentes pieces de ce Tout immense y avoient aussi leurs reprA(C)sentations. Chaque etre y A(C)toit figurA(C) par ses characteres propres: et l'acte par lequel la Souveraine Puissance a rA(C)alisA(C) ce plan, est ce que nous nommons la CrA(C)ation."

[30]: Here is a fact given us by Dr. F. Hall, of Wallingford, Conn.: In a peat meadow in that town, owned by him, which was at no time subject to overflow, a large quantity of peat had been removed at different intervals of time, when the excavations naturally filled with water. In these excavations there appeared not only the Cyprinidae in considerable numbers, but fresh water clams which grew to be as large as those in the most favored streams. They made their appearance the very first season after the peat was removed, and have flourished there ever since. In no other portions of the meadow were there any fish or clams ever noticed before, nor was there any other source of water-supply than the rain-falls in that locality.

[31]: Professor Beale, in one of his very latest works says: "Of the chemical and physical forms of energy something is known, but of the relationship of the so called vital energy, nothing has been proved. We only know that the influence it exerts is altogether different from that which has been traced to physical and chemical energy."

[32]: It is admitted, even in the case of Bacteria, whose movements are the most uniform, that they are sometimes so inert and languid as to show no movements at all; while, at other times, they exhibit mere Brownian movements or those no more nearly allied to "life" than the minute particles of carbon escaping from the flame of a kerosene lamp. And among the most distinguished microscopists, it is a question whether these infusorial forms, those exhibiting the most active oscillations, are really vegetal or animal in origin; in other words, whether they are Fungus-spores or Torula-cells, or whether they may not be some intermediate forms.

[33]: The difficulty of assigning any definitional value to a "primordial germ" is due to the vagueness of idea attached to it in the popular mind, as well as to the diversified theories and speculations of the scientists concerning the origin of life. We can only define it as a "vital unit," as the chemist defines his smallest conceivable quantity—his "primary least"—of an element, as a "chemical unit."

[34]: Let two comrades be shot at the same instant in battle, the one through the heart, and the other through the arm, shattering it badly. What is there to prevent the surgeon from taking a piece of bone out of the arm of the man shot through the heart and instantly killed, and using it to make good the arm of the man still living? Apparently nothing but that the dead man's bone will not knit. He may not have been dead five minutes, and Professor Beale's bioplasts might still be at work spinning matter and weaving tissue for the integrity of the displaced bone. Why will it not knit? Simply because the vital principle that differentiates matter is gone—can no longer act. If the integrity of the bone depended on the action of the molecules, and not on the vital principle, there is no reason why this experiment should not be a success. For the molecules are all there, and their action will not be disturbed for hours after the death of the man shot through the heart.

[35]: It is safe to adhere to the Leibnitzian axiom, Natura non agit saltatim.

[36]: One of the most cultured classes of Christian believers in our day, holds that "all life is from the Lord;" that "He is the fountain, and we only the streams thence." And this, they claim, is true of all life. To "take away our breath," therefore, is to cut off this stream perpetually flowing from its invisible source—the fountain of all Life. When scientific methods substitute for a first cause a mere resultant effect, all primary principles disappear in their intermediates.

[37]: Professor Marsh, of Yale College, has predicted that the "missing link" will be found in Borneo—evidently not crediting Mr. Stanley's statement about its presence in the interior of Africa. But one "missing link" is hardly enough; there ought to be an extensive family of them to complete Mr. Darwin's plexus. From the lowest genetic form to the anthropoid ape is a distance which does not half cover the length of this plexus—the immense gap between the monkey and the man being decidedly the greater length of chain. And yet the first half of the chain is traversed by innumerable forms—millions of links, so to speak. How, then, is the greater length of the plexus to be covered by a single "missing link?" A long line of caudal ancestry must be dug up, therefore, in Borneo, and shipped to the Peabody Museum, before this tremendous stretch in the chain of animated nature is satisfactorily accounted for. Borneo must be exceedingly rich in osteologic remains, even to bridge the chasm between its own ourang-outangs and the Dyaks, or aboriginal inhabitants, of that island.

[38]: This daring hypothesis of the materialists is so utterly repugnant to all our ideas of a perfected Cosmos, that we have no patience with those advancing it. It is, at best, speculation run mad, and is based on no other assumption than that of the inherent imperfectibility of the universe as it came from the hand of God, or from the dynamic play of molecules extending throughout vast geognostic epochs.

From a materialistic stand-point this assumption of imperfectibility inevitably runs into the reductio ad absurdum. For if, in the play of the material forces of the universe, an infinite duration of past time has effected nothing but mutually disturbing and re-adjusting movements and relations among cosmical bodies, then an infinite duration of time to come can effect nothing but similarly mutual adjustments and re-adjustments in respect to such bodies. With an infinity of time, space, matter and motion, everywhere presenting a unity of phenomena in the universe, "there can never be anything," according to the great Stagirite, "unconnected or out of place, as in a bad tragedy." Conservation must, therefore, be the rule, and desinence the impossible exception.

But these adherents of inherent imperfectibility instance the fact of vanished and variable stars, as well as those that have suddenly appeared, and, after brief periods of intense brilliancy, as suddenly disappeared, to show that there are mighty disturbances in the sidereal heavens which entirely negative the idea of "conservation" as a geognostic law. But the phenomena of variable stars, with all their apparent irregularity of motion and fluctuations in luminosity, are now being traced to definite and well-determined laws of motion, if not of light, while the theory of extinguished and disappearing stars belongs exclusive to the age of Tycho Brahe. Where there is one self-luminious body (or sun) in the interstellary spaces, there are probably not less than forty non-luminous or dark cosmical bodies revolving about their respective centres of light and heat, as the attending planets revolve about the common centre of gravity in our own system. And this is especially true of that vast and fathomless star-stratum, called the Milky-way, in which most of these peculiar phenomena occur, with the exception of the variable stars only.

That stars should vary in their intensity of light by the probable transits of these dark cosmical bodies across their discs, is no matter of wonder or astonishment: on the contrary, it is surprising that these sidereal phenomena do not occur with much greater frequency. This would inevitably be the case if the planes of revolution, in the case of these non-luminous bodies about their central orbs, were coincident with the lines of vision from our own planet—a circumstance by no means improbable from the vastness of the sidereal heavens and the innumerable hosts of stars marching therein. Besides, these periodical variations may be accounted for in part—especially in the case of double stars—from their apparent rather than real change of place in the heavens. For if our sun-system is travelling towards a point in the constellation Hercules at the rate of 194 thousand miles an hour (the rapidity of Arcturus' flight), it is impossible to determine, in the present state of astronomical knowledge, whether the apparent change of place in any star is real or merely optical. But, in the case of double stars, each is travelling (independently of its other motions) about the common centre of gravity obtaining in its own system, and these relative movements may account for the greater or less intensity of light as the two stars, viewed as one, present a greater or less area of luminosity in their united surfaces.

The assumed revolution of one of these stars about the other—thus destroying all the known analogies of the universe, as exemplified in our own system—may be accounted for in the same way. With stupendous planetary systems revolving about each of these apparently double stars, they must respectively have a revolution, real as well as apparent, about their own centres of gravity—not one and the same centre, but different and far distant centres. Lying in nearly the same line of vision, with planes of movement at right angles with it, they would necessarily present the appearance of one star revolving about the other—an apparent motion only.

And the writer here ventures an explanation of the phenomena of temporary stars, or those making their appearance in the heavens, flaming up into stars of the first, second and third magnitudes, and then disappearing altogether. The most remarkable of these stars, or apparent stars, was that of Tycho Brahe in 1572, presenting its maximum brilliancy at the very first, but gradually diminishing in size until the end of seventeen months, when it disappeared, without change of place, from the heavens. This temporary star was visible in Cassiopeia, on the verge of the Milky-way, within whose swarm of stellar worlds most of these apparent stars have made their appearance. Tycho Brahe, in seeking to account for this stellar phenomenon, advanced the theory that stars might be "formed and molded out of cosmical vapor," or "vapory celestial matter," as the elder Herschel put it, "which becomes luminous as it condenses (conglomerates) into fixed stars." But any such rapid condensation of "vapory matter," in the light of Laplace's "nebular theory," is manifestly too absurd for scientific recognition. A more satisfactory explanation may be here suggested:—Supposing the apparent relative position of any six or seven stars of the sixth magnitude in the Milky-way, should be so changed by the combined motions of our sun-system and of the stars themselves, as to throw them into one and the same line of vision, but so clustered together as to show their several star-discs as one, we should unquestionably have a star of the first magnitude, which would continue as long as this extraordinary stellar conjunction should last. As one after another of these stars should fall out of line, by reason of the combined motions named, the apparent star would be diminished from the first to the second magnitude, and so on until it reached the sixth magnitude, when it would pass beyond the reach of unaided human vision. But as the star of Tycho Brahe suddenly appeared at its fullest brilliancy, it may be objected that this suggested theory fails to meet the required conditions.

As 18,000,000, out of the 20,000,000, of telescopic stars lie in the Milky-way, it is not by any means improbable that such a conjunction of stars may occur therein as often at least as once or twice in a century. We certainly see brilliant patches of closely-crowded stars, in great numbers, in this galactic zone, and the fact that these temporary stars almost uniformly appear in that zone renders the suggestion here made quite as rational, in the way of speculation at least, as that of "vapory celestial matter" suddenly condensed into a star of the first magnitude, as Sir. William Herschel would have us believe was possible, if not probable.

Besides, it is a definitely ascertained fact that such clusters of stars, lying in almost the same line of vision, exist in various parts of the heavens, which present to the naked eye the appearance of a star of the fourth or fifth magnitude, and probably would, if more thickly clustered, present that of a star of the first magnitude. But powerful telescopes resolve them into a large number of stars, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth magnitude. One such cluster in Andromeda's girdle has been resolved into not less than fifteen hundred small stars of very low magnitude, and pretty widely scattered in the telescopic field. Alexander Von Humboldt, in speaking of stars that have thus disappeared, says that "their disappearance may be the result of their motion as much as of any diminution of their photometric processes (whether on their surfaces or in their photospheres), as would render the waves of light too weak too excite the organs of sight." And he adds: "What we no longer see is not necessarily annihilation," repeating at the same time the question of Pliny "StellA an obirent nascerenturve?"

But another, and (to our mind) more satisfactory, explanation of these stellar phenomena, may be hazarded in this connection: There are, for instance, in the Milky-way, among the more brilliant clusters of stars, dark granular spots, of greater or less magnitude, in which the most powerful telescopes show no glints or traces of stars. They are among Humboldt's smaller "fissures or chasms in the heavens," in which he asserts that there is a great paucity of stars, or none at all. Now, if one of these thick stellar clusters, which show to the naked eye as a single star, should, by the combined cosmical movements of our sun-system and the stellar group in question, pass into the field of one of these small rents or "fissures" in the galactic curtain—that lying in front of the stellar cluster—it would immediately show as a star of possibly the first magnitude, and would continue to shine as a star of that magnitude so long as it remained in the field of the narrow rent or fissure. It would shine out suddenly like a star through a rift in the clouds of a dark night, and disappear as soon as it had traversed, or apparently traversed, the rift in question. This galactic curtain, it should be borne in mind, is made up of 18,000,000 of stars, or sun-systems, and not less than 720,000,000 dark cosmical bodies revolving about their respective centres of gravity. If the "nebular theory" of the universe be true, this is unquestionably the exact condition of things in the Milky-way. Of the more distant stars in this crowded galaxy, we can only catch, even in the telescopic field, mere glints of light as the intervening swarms of stellar and planetary worlds thicken in the foreground and shut out the more distant view. It is only through these rents and fissures in this great galactic curtain that the brighter stellar clusters beyond can ever be seen; and these glints of far distant light, showing dimly through this curtain, may account for the peculiar milky appearance of the galaxy, arising from the loss of chromatic power in the full beams themselves. It was undoubtedly through one of these rents in the galactic curtain that the condensed starry cluster of Tycho Brahe suddenly made its appearance in the outer fringes of the Milky-way, and remained visible for a period of seventeen months.


Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6
Home - Random Browse